Scientists named a record number of new species and varieties of WA plants last year. Environment Minister David Templeman today said 298 newly-named plants joined the nearly 13,000 already known in the State.
New species were discovered from the Kimberley to the deserts and to the forests of the South-West.
Some new species even came from the suburbs of Perth and the Darling Range.
Many of the new species were discovered as a result of botanical surveys in the banded iron ranges of the Mid-West. Areas subject to mining or other development applications were studied by botanists as part of the environmental assessment process.
Mr Templeman said there were still many new species to be discovered and scientifically described in WA.
“We really can only guess at the number of plant species that occur in the State,” he said.
“WA is the most botanically rich State in Australia and a global hotspot for plants and for botanical discovery.
“The discovery of new species is a regular occurrence in WA. But botanists at the WA Herbarium had a bumper year in 2007, when more species were described than in any year since 1810, when the botanist Robert Brown published the first major account of WA’s plants.
“Naming is important, as once a species is named, it can be more accurately documented and its conservation needs assessed. Other scientists and researchers, mining consultants, members of the general public and wildflower enthusiasts need names to be able to properly recognise, study and protect native plants.”
Species are scientifically named by publishing a botanical description, partly in Latin, in a scientific journal.
Laws and regulations for naming species are set out under an international agreement adhered to by botanists throughout the world.
Among the new species named are emu bushes in the genus Eremophila, native bush-peas (Jacksonia), eucalypts and orchids.
“Some of the most spectacular and interesting new species are the salt-tolerant, succulent samphire Tecticornia bibenda, which resembles the ‘Michelin Man’; a new Black-eyed Susan (Tetratheca erubescens), that grows on cliffs on a single range of hills near Coolgardie; and a tiny new insectivorous sundew (Drosera gibsonii) from the Stirling Range that’s smaller than a five cent coin,” the Minister said.
The government is building a new $30 million State Herbarium at the Department of Environment and Conservation’s Kensington site in Perth.